Afera launches Flagship Sustainability Project on European Green Deal, holds online Q&A session for Members during latest Webinar

During Afera’s 1 April webinar, Members learned about our Flagship Sustainability Project “Translating the European Green Deal to Afera Members” focussed on waste management, calculation methods, advocacy and information

Afera’s recent online hour-long session, part of our biweekly Webinar series, marked the launching of Afera’s Flagship Sustainability Project (FSP) on the European Green Deal (EGD) and served as a Q&A session on measuring the importance of various elements of the FSP among our Membership. Afera Sustainability Working Group Chairman Martijn Verhagen, who is also principal scientist at Lohmann GmbH & Co. KG, began the Webinar with a presentation on the background of the Project selection process and the 3 focal clusters which will comprise the Project.

Mr. Verhagen explained that the idea of creating a project within the 12-Member Sustainability Working Group (Sus-WG) arose from brainstorming sessions in which the Members discussed examples of initiatives carried out by other organisations in labels and paper. One is FINAT’s hosting of CELAB-Europe, which is dedicated to identifying and collectively scaling recycling and re-use solutions for self-adhesive label liners and matrix materials. 4evergreen, an industry alliance by Cepi to boost the contribution of fibre-based packaging in a circular economy, is the other. “They are really powerful projects taken on by trade collectives, in which companies are working together to generate ideas and put them into motion, creating new visibility for their products, markets and organisations,” said Mr. Verhagen.

European Green Deal as FSP theme
The Sus-WG hosted the brainstorming of Project-related topics during the concluding session of Afera’s latest Annual Conference centred on sustainability and circularity issues. 4 breakout rooms discussed one of the following: reduction of carbon emissions/energy use/waste generation in tape manufacturing and in tape applications, optimisation of raw materials for reduction of environmental impact of tapes, and enabling of recycling and reuse of products in which tapes are used. Following this, a survey was conducted among Afera Member Companies. Feedback among the approximately 20 respondents was clustered and discussed and ultimately produced the following themes:

  • Waste management and waste reduction
  • Calculation methodology and harmonisation
  • Upcoming regulation, with the EGD mentioned most often
  • Advocacy in legislation, i.e. being at the table around which decisions are taken.

As the EGD was the common thread running through every Afera sustainability discussion, the Sus-WG took this as an umbrella under which to build out Afera’s FSP, dividing it into 3 focal clusters:

  • Waste management and potential waste reduction in tape manufacturing and tape applications
  • Calculation methods
  • Advocacy in legislation and provision of information to Afera Members.

Waste and waste management
Here the stated goal is to categorise and identify the biggest waste streams within the value chain and to try to find solutions with which to tackle these. In looking at an example like CELAB, there may be other recycling or reuse opportunities in the tape market that could make a significant impact.

Harmonised calculation methodology across the value chain
The goal is to have a toolset for calculation across the adhesive tape value chain. The Sus-WG will attempt to harmonise the methodology. Mr. Verhagen emphasised that the Sus-WG will not perform calculations for Members, nor draw any conclusions based on calculations. They will start with carbon footprint, which is just one calculation method, and gradually expand into lifecycle analysis, environmental product declaration, and if the European Commission prevails, product environmental footprint (PEFP), which is currently in trial phase in other industries. Mr. Verhagen shared that the PEFP “will be the new tool for Europe”.

Advocacy in legislation and provision of information to Afera Members
Afera will represent the tape industry in initiatives coming out of the EGD by both monitoring and attending experts and other relevant legislative meetings and drafting positioning statements on legislative issues. “There are many current and future initiatives on our radar and in which Pablo [Englebienne, Afera Regulatory Affairs Manager] is already participating, some with other trade organisations,” Mr. Verhagen explained. “These include the BREF STS, Sustainable Products Initiative, the Ecodesign requirements and the green claims initiative, to name a few.” He added that microplastics are also a hot topic at the moment. The Sus-WG is also currently working on a European adhesive tape industry statement detailing our support of the EGD.

“The second part of this cluster involves making the EGD more digestible for Afera Members,” Mr. Verhagen continued. This includes further developing Afera’s sustainability section of to include a library of resources, providing content in Afera News, and conducting more webinars to update everyone on our progress and facilitate Q&A.

Webinar poll results: calculation methods most sought-after
Participants in the online session were spot-polled on which of the 3 pillars of the Project they find most important. 42% chose waste management and waste reduction, 37% chose calculation methods and just 21% say advocacy and visibility are the most important aspects of the FSP to their companies. Furthermore, 67% of those polled say they are already working on EGD topics within their businesses (a statistic Mr. Verhagen was positively surprised about), while 14% say they are not, and 19% are not sure or do not have any information about their companies’ involvement in EGD legislative matters.

Jeff Burrington, senior application specialist at H.B. Fuller, expressed his surprise that advocacy in legislation and provision of information by Afera did not carry more popularity in the first poll. “It would seem rather natural that an organisation such as Afera would be a focal point for leadership or a platform on which to come together to share knowledge, experience and strategy as the EGD goes forward,” he remarked. “What I am hoping for is that this FSP will bring closer co-operation and approach to this obviously challenging set of subjects.”

“I initially had the same thought,” added Afera President Evert Smit, who is also director scouting at Lohmann GmbH & Co. KG. “Then again, I do understand this reaction as everyone is searching for their way at the moment, and it is a very natural human reaction to desire tools from which you can benefit—with which you can execute new programmes.” In his opinion, the bigger picture is advocacy, which is something Afera as an organisation should strive for. Tools come out of this process of working together as an industry, and hopefully they will even be used together among Member Companies. “Our last webinar covered co-creation, which I would like to make part of the FSP, because this touches individual company fears of divulging their expertise and therefore losing the benefit they receive from it. But we need to look at the bigger picture that only by working together do we gain a clearer view into where the tape business needs to go in the future, if we all want to arrive there together. Arguably focussing on the next generation of co-operation and transparency in the value chain in order to comply with EGD legislation goes beyond tapes.”

Having voted similarly, Elodie Picard, global market strategy head for tapes and labels pressure sensitive adhesives at Henkel, agreed with Mr. Burrington and Mr. Smit, highlighting that “we all need to understand each other in the Industry, to be moving in the same direction, and to have the same goals along the value chain.”

Mr. Englebienne, who works with FINAT members on the CELAB-Europe project for the recycling of release liners for self-adhesive labels, “sees there is a lot to gain from having a harmonised approach, as the project’s visibility reaches more consumers, who learn that the industry is clearly working on something important.” This is part of the altruistic part of sustainability, as moderator Bert van Loon calls it, as companies begin to realise that they have to put aside their focus on individual wins to team up potentially with other companies across the Industry to ensure that they achieve their sustainability goals.

Collaborative waste projects: identifying where the biggest pain point is
A spot-poll conducted on whether participants see waste management as a competitive or collaborative issue revealed that most respondents think the latter. “I expected this because of the discussion I see taking place in the Sus-WG, which represents a good mix of Industry,” commented Mr. Verhagen. “We can’t divulge facts and figures, but our discussions are open.” Mr. Van Loon put forward the idea of establishing which elements of waste management are competitive, which are not and which depend on certain factors. This may help in giving this pillar more focus and scope of actionable projects.

If Members have information, ideas or even examples of waste projects that would be helpful to the FSP, Mr. Verhagen asked that they would get in touch with Afera Secretary General Astrid Lejeune or himself. If there are interested parties who would like to join the Sus-WG or experts within Member Companies who would like to lend their experience and expertise to the FSP through a delegate in the Working Group, they are welcome. “The WG almost covers the entire value chain, but we need to be honest that we do not have all the knowledge in this one group.” In the Project selection process, he said that some Sus-WG Members currently have their feelers out to their contacts with regard to waste project experience. They are also looking into other trade organisations who have tackled waste issues in the past to see what can be learned.

“It would be interesting to know what the biggest waste streams are within certain parts of the value chain,” said Mr. Verhagen. “Each of us can identify the waste streams within our own companies. One of the issues we are discussing is how far we want to go? Do we stop at converting of tape or do we look beyond converting to consumers of tape? Depending on this, the outcome could be completely different. We need to be talking to the right people about this.”

“Involving downstream users will depend on the ultimate goal of the FSP—which has to be determined first,” said Mr. Englebienne. “I do see in CELAB the value of involving the whole value chain—the importance of involving the actual users of labels, who will become the holders of the waste at some point and will thus have to process it.” 4evergreen, he also explained, also involves the whole paper value chain from the producers of the chemicals, Henkel for instance, down through paper manufacturers, converters and manufacturers of packaging materials, as well as many brand owners and retailers, such as IKEA. By working together, he explained, it is possible to find solutions that would otherwise be intractable.

“To put it another way, where is the biggest problem?” Mr. Smit suggested that a conclusion has actually been drawn already about the majority of tape value chain waste lying within the Industry and not with consumers. “But we could be missing something.” Mr. Smit posed the idea of participants taking this question back to their companies for discussion. To this, Sophie Allard, CSR director of Novacel SAS, responded, “For us, waste management of the end user who removes the tape is the prime issue, because it is problematic and moreover involves many companies across different industries. Our direct customers who apply tapes are not the issue, because they are industrial and are used to managing waste.”

Mr. Burrington agreed “that if we remain largely the middle-upper-end of the value chain, then we feel we have more control over the situation. Whereas when you get to the true end user, it becomes so nebulous that it is much more difficult, perhaps exponentially, in terms of controlling the situation.” But at the same time, it comes down to what is measurable. If ultimately there is actually more waste at the end user than in the rest of the Industry value chain, then the end is more important. Ms. Allard responded that for protective films, 5% of waste lies with their customers using process films for converting, and 95% lies with the end users later on in the supply chain. Managing the latter presents a more difficult challenge. Mr. Verhagen warned that tapes were a different story to protective films, because most of their waste lays with tape manufacturers and converters rather than the end customers.

Whereas at the outset of the CELAB project a full lifecycle analysis was performed to identify where in the supply chain waste made the biggest impact, doing the same for Afera’s FSP might be more difficult. The application of labels takes place mostly during one part of the chain, packaging, but tapes are applied and used in so many different forms and processes that creating a detailed lifecycle analysis of the Industry would prove to be an extremely complicated exercise. “But it is valuable to identify where the biggest hot spots or pain points in waste generation lie in the Industry through specific uses, and to focus in on these,” Mr. Englebienne contributed.

Mr. Verhagen said that through the FSP’s calculation methodology, there may be a possibility for creating, through data supplied on a voluntary basis, aggregated industry statistics for benchmarking purposes. To this, Giovanni Scognamiglio, EMEA masking and packaging business development manager at 3M in Italy, added a suggestion: “It’s key to identify hot spots and quantify them,” he said. “Instead of seeking out voluntary data however, this could be achieved more uniformly through looking at global and regional data available for some production streams through standardised studies such as Freedonia. In looking as these data from a volume perspective, the carton sealing value chain could represent an interesting cluster.”

The Afera FSP is expected to run for a few years, considering that the EGD was launched late last year and is still being developed, including its timeline. The Sus-WG is hoping to realise calculation methods by mid-2022. Mr. Verhagen concluded the Q&A session by noting that he had received no objections to the selected focal clusters of the FSP and felt satisfied that it has been launched successfully.

The recording of the Webinar is available here using password: s+g@04uL.

Afera’s 9th TechSem has kicked off!
One of Afera’s most important events of the year, the Technical Seminar, began last Thursday. Held online this year, the unique Technical Seminar is a biennial event aimed at updating technical and operational managers and directors on the cutting-edge technical issues and innovations driving the adhesive tape market. It is developed as a return event. In 2021, for obvious reasons, it has been transformed in an online series of 90-minute sessions covering new perspectives, performance modelling, markets, applications, sustainability and regulation over 4 weeks of Thursdays starting on 15 April 2021 at 14:00 CET. Members register at a 45% discount here.

Annual Conference Programme update
Ms. Lejeune is working with a small Conference organisation support group on developing an interesting working programme for Afera’s 64th Annual Conference, set to take place from 29 September to 1 October at Hotel Las Arenas Balneario Resort in Valencia, Spain. Afera is planning to launch the finalised Working programme at our next regular Webinar scheduled for 27 May. We will keep you updated!

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